Life lessons we learned from Uncle Phil on 'Fresh Prince of Bel Air'.

He Was An Uncle To Us All: The Life Lessons We Learned From Uncle Phil From 'Fresh Prince'

by Julian Sonny
Mark Mainz/Getty Images Entertainment/Getty Images

The tragic news of the death of actor James Avery, everybody's favorite TV uncle, isn't how any of us wanted to start off the New Year.

Avery's character, Philip Banks, aka Uncle Phil, on the hit 90s show The Fresh Prince of Bel Air, was one of the most legendary of all time. I think many of us can agree that Phil was somewhat of a father figure, whom we all learned from just by watching the show.

His crazy bug outs, hilarious quotes and, most importantly, valuable life lessons always brought out the best of Will Smith. Avery's presence will forever be immortalized in countless reruns of the wacky 90s show.

Uncle Phil taught all of us how to live the right way -- through tough love, discipline and understanding. James Avery transcended a character that will continue to bring more laughs and insight to people for years to come.

He was a true boss, a caring man and someone we can all look up to. These are the life lessons we learned from Uncle Phil:

Instill fear... out of love

Not many people could intimidate quite like Uncle Phil. He's probably the most imposing father figure of all-time on TV and his actions often proved it. He was, after all, a Supreme Court judge! That would probably explain why Phil showed no mercy on Will and Carlton... ever.

It's family over everything

The classic elevator scene was, of course, set up by a little confrontation between Uncle Phil and a disrespectful cigarette smoker. But after the power went out and his wife was going into labor, Phil saw to it that he did everything he could to get out and see his wife and newest child. That, of course, included borrowing the phone of the same guy he previously insulted. The power of family took over and he acted a bit out of character just to get what he needed: that bulky 90s cellphone!

Sometimes, all you can do is laugh


You can try to fix something, solve a problem or make it better, but sometimes, sh*t is so f*cked up that all you can do is laugh. Why stress about it when there's nothing you can do? When Will and Carlton told Uncle Phil about their elaborate scheme to get rich, which involved insider trading (a federal offense), he was just dumbfounded. So, he simply laughed! Then, of course, he went ballistic seconds later. Classic!

Don't try to be someone you're not (or wear wigs)

Like any other balding man in America, Uncle Phil was feeling a little self-conscious and tried on some wigs. After every mop made him just look absolutely ridiculous, Phil finally decided that maybe it's just not for him. It doesn't help that Carlton was over his shoulder trying to sell it. Phil's wife reacted to the fake hair with all he needed to hear: It's okay; bald is beautiful!

Find out what a person is fully about before you criticize him or her

In the pilot episode of the show, Uncle Phil and Will shared a classic moment. Still getting accustomed to his new living situation, Will made a fool of himself and the family, and of course blamed it on everyone else around him. When he accused his uncle of forgett about his roots and where he came from, Phil couldn't have been more insulted. He responded with this strong line:

Let me tell you something, son. I grew up on the streets just like you. I encountered bigotry like you couldn't imagine. Now, you have a nice poster of Malcolm X on your wall. I heard the brother speak. I read every word he wrote. Believe me, I know where I come from.

He closed the scene by telling Will, "Before you criticize somebody, you find out what he's all about." Seconds later, to much surprise, Uncle Phil overheard Will playing the piano, which puts things into perspective: He, too, was judging.

It's okay to be mad

In what is undoubtedly the most powerful moment in the history of the show, Will's biological father finally comes back into his life, only to spurn him once more for some "business." The emotional outburst that Will exhibited immediately after his father walked out on him yet again was deep.

Despite being at a loss for words, Uncle Phil truly took Will in as his own in this moment, telling him, "It's okay to be mad." When he saw Will down, he picked him back up and showed him the love his father never gave him. Uncle Phil may have been strict and unforgiving at times, but he had a big heart and always took care of his family.

Rest in peace, James Avery.